The Morning Jolt

National Security & Defense

The Americans Joe Biden Left Behind

President Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 31, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

On the menu today: Gathering the stories of American citizens and green-card holders who are still trapped in Afghanistan, and a correction.

Who Are the Americans Still in Afghanistan?
The New York Times reports that “at least hundreds of U.S. citizens and potentially thousands of green card holders . . . are stranded in Afghanistan.”

For obvious reasons, news organizations are not eager to report the full names and locations of Americans and green-card holders in Afghanistan. There’s no need to make the Taliban’s work easier.

Right now, somewhere in Afghanistan, there’s a U.S. green-card holder who was living in Maryland earlier this year. He had worked with the Americans, done excellent work, and qualified for a green card. Green-card holders are granted authorization to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. They’re often on the last step before applying for U.S. citizenship. As Charlie Cooke summarized, “it’s not a visa. It’s not a temporary permission slip. It’s permanent residency.” During the evacuation, the U.S. State Department said that the evacuations of citizens and of green-card holders were both top priorities, although green-card holders quickly disappeared from administration statements and statistics  thereafter.

This green-card holder is married and had six children; his wife’s parents did not want her moving with him to the U.S., so the husband and father moved to America and sent money back to support his family. In early August, this green-card holder could see the Taliban were advancing quickly, and he went back to Afghanistan to try to get his wife and six children out.

My reader, who has been trying to get this green-card holder out, had to tell him that the last U.S. flight had departed Kabul International Airport:

I told him about 5 a.m. Kabul time (on the 31st) that the U.S. military had left early during the night and would not be there today, the 31st, the last day,” my reader said. “I couldn’t decipher his reaction. It was either quiet rage or a silent crushing of his spirit. I read the report from [the State Department] that they will work diplomatic channels to get the rest of the ‘American citizens’ out. Legal permanent residents sound like they are screwed again. We shake our heads in amazement. The effort from State so far on his case and others has been a goose egg.  It’s a massive fail.

However, the U.S. State Department did send this green-card holder an e-mail with the helpful advice to “keep a low profile.” The e-mail recommended, “Make contingency plans to leave when it is safe to do so that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.” Over on the State Department website, under a section labeled, “What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis,” the department writes, “If there are no commercial options available, and if we have consular officers at the embassy or consulate, and if the conditions permit, we may help U.S. citizens identify possible transportation options” (emphasis in original).

The New York Times:

For more than a week, Samiullah Naderi, a U.S. legal permanent resident, waited days and nights with his wife and son outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, hoping to be let in so that they could leave on one of the dozens of daily flights out.

But on Monday, after being told that no more people would be allowed inside the airport gate, Mr. Naderi and his family returned to their apartment in Kabul with no clear path back to Philadelphia, where he has been living since last year.

Mr. Naderi, 23, is among at least hundreds of U.S. citizens and potentially thousands of green card holders who are stranded in Afghanistan.

About 6,000 Americans, the vast majority of them dual U.S.-Afghan citizens, were evacuated after Aug. 14, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Monday. The State Department has not provided numbers for how many permanent legal U.S. residents have also been evacuated or — as in Mr. Naderi’s case — failed to get on a flight out. Immigration and refugee advocacy groups estimated that thousands remained.

The New York Post:

A terrified American citizen who was an interpreter for the US military has said she is now stranded in Afghanistan — because no one told her the last flights were leaving Monday.

“I just found out that [the last US troops] left, and I was just silent for a while,” the interpreter, using the pseudonym Sara for safety, told CNN Monday night.

“I just can’t believe no one told me that this is the last flight.”

Sara said she is now more terrified than during any of her missions helping the military over 14 years.

“They left us to whom? To those people who wanted to always kill us?”

The Sacramento Bee:

At least 24 Sacramento-area students are confirmed to be stranded in Afghanistan as turmoil continues in Kabul, according to school officials. San Juan Unified school district staff said 24 students, down from the initial estimate of 150 students, had not returned to campuses since the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

A photo in the paper includes this caption:

Behshta, 21, holds a school picture showing her youngest sister Neda, 9, second from left in top row, on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, as she worries in their Arden Arcade bedroom whether his sisters will return from Afghanistan. She said the schools call every day asking when Neda, of Dyer-Kelly Elementary School and Sabrina, 15, of Encina High School, will return to class. The family explained that they are in hiding from the Taliban and can’t get to the airport.

From the Sacramento ABC News affiliate:

This three-year-old boy was born near Sacramento; his passport shows he is a US citizen, and he’s going through a harrowing ordeal right now, unable to escape Afghanistan. We’re hiding his identity and that of his father, a social worker, and other family members who are all US permanent residents, for fear of them being captured by the Taliban.

James Brown, Veterans Advocate, told the I-Team, “I received a call Sunday morning at about 6 a.m. from a friend of mine who’s an active duty Marine Corps officer stationed overseas, and he basically felt like his hands were tied and he needed some help getting this family out.”

…Armed with that letter, the boy, his father and several other family members approached the airport, but the Taliban attacked.

Brown said, “And they were stopped by a Taliban checkpoint, and they received physical beatings at the gate and they were pushed back where they had to flee and return to a safe house.”

A lot of these green-card holders are Afghan Americans who went back to see parents and other relatives still in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over. It’s not hard to find people on social media who are quick to sneer that U.S. citizens and green-card holders should have left earlier. President Biden said in his speech yesterday, “Since March, we reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan, with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave Afghanistan — all the way back as far as March.” Biden didn’t mention that on July 8, he himself had assured the world, “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely” and declared, “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more re- — more competent in terms of conducting war.”

Tim Miller put it succinctly:

A lot of [people] in my replies are happy to give Biden a pass for not recognizing that the Taliban would take over the country 16 days before 8/31 but unwilling to give Americans stuck there a pass for making the same miscalculation. I don’t find that argument very compelling, sorry.

And this is just discussing U.S. citizens and green card holders. The U.S. also left behind journalists working for the U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, thousands of American University of Afghanistan students and graduates, and an Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Joe Biden when his helicopter was forced to land in bad weather in 2008.

The Washington Post editorial board concludes:

As security worsened in the wake of a horrific terrorist attack at the airport last Thursday, and as U.S. troops prepared for their own departure on Monday, time and space ran out for these people. This is a moral disaster, one attributable not to the actions of military and diplomatic personnel in Kabul — who have been courageous and professional, in the face of deadly dangers — but to mistakes, strategic and tactical, by Mr. Biden and his administration.”

Yesterday in his remarks, President Biden saluted “the extraordinary success of this mission.”

ADDENDUM: CNN reports that the man videotaped hanging from a helicopter was not being hung by his neck, but was being suspended from a harness. It mentions this tweet of mine, feeling it is important to refute my assertion that the Taliban are not as “pragmatic and business-like” as General Frank McKenzie claimed. Oooh, you got me, guys. I’ll just have to find one of the hundreds of other examples of Taliban barbarism to make my point, like the fact that after promising an amnesty, the Taliban are executing members of the Afghan army.

Recommended

The Latest